Janet Raffel, 58

She relies on the kindness of strangers.
Photograph: Erica Gannett Public Eye
Advertising

Madison Street and Wabash Avenue

What’s it like navigating downtown? Well, I’m legally blind, but I have about a ten-degree field of vision. Which means I can see a little bit. Enough that I know where I’m going. Not enough to avoid tripping. That’s why I carry the cane.

You rely more on spatial cues? I rely on people! I’ve lived in other cities and had not nearly as easy of a time navigating as I do in Chicago. I’ll be standing on a corner and someone will ask me if I need help crossing the street. People are good about giving me the handicapped seats on buses and trains. The homeless people cheer me on: “You go, girl!” [Laughs] It’s amazing.

Has your vision been impaired since birth? No, I didn’t know until I was in my thirties. I thought everyone sees the way I do. Then I got diagnosed with my condition, retinitis pigmentosa. I had been driving!

Were you accident prone? I got in a few, but no more than other people I knew! [Laughs]

Can people be too helpful? Some visually impaired people feel that way, but I don’t. Even if I decline assistance, I thank them profusely for offering. They’re correct in erring on the side of friendliness.

Have you ever come to someone’s aid? Just recently, I was out in San Francisco at a Walgreens and a completely blind person walked in. Nobody else in the store was looking to help her. So I walked over, grabbed her arm and said, “Where do you need to go?” It was the blind leading the blind!

Advertising
This page was migrated to our new look automatically. Let us know if anything looks off at feedback@timeout.com